The first, and major, item was a discussion at Tuesday's meeting of the UNISON NEC Development and Organisation Committee was of the report of the working group on the review of our branch and service group structures set up in response to the decision of Conference 2005. This working group has been engaged in extensive consultation and the Chair, Sue Highton, urged us to accept the recommendations of the report, which was introduced by the officer who had led this work. Liane Venner.
The report, which will now be put to the National Executive Council on 21 February for submission to Conference this summer makes a number of recommendations, including;
A revised scheme for branches under Rule G1.2;
Flexibility to allow branches to participate in more than one Region or Service Group;
A review of the allocation of resources to branches and Regions;
Annual assessments of branch organisation in each Region;
A review of the role of “sectors” within and between Service Groups;
A review to enhance cross service-group working;
Further consultation about structures for Further Education, Community and Voluntary Sector, and Private Sector members;
Further consultation on Service Group structures, focusing on Energy, Transport, Water and Environment Service Groups;
Rule amendments dealing with the definition of “sectors” in Rule Q and to govern cross service-group sectors in Rule D3.7.
Liane Venner gave a full introduction to the report. Glenn Kelly (representing Local Government) expressed some concerns about how some of the recommendations could be viewed by branches. I expressed some similar concerns and suggested some possible amendments to address these. John Jones (representing Water and Environment) expressed concern about the recommendation to review Service Group structures. Moz Greenshields (from the East Midlands Region) made the obvious but necessary point that the D&O Committee had never itself debated this subject, since it had agreed to defer discussion pending consultation and was now being presented with recommendations as a fait accompli. (I regret that this is not uncommon on the NEC!) Liane responded to the debate with a thorough defence of the recommendations of the report.
I decided to push just one amendment to the vote, and urged the Committee to agree that the review of resource allocation should include all resources, including those allocated to HQ, not just those allocated to branches and Regions. Bob Oram (from the North West Region) who chairs the NEC Staffing Committee objected to this proposed amendment on the grounds that the Staffing Committee is already undertaking Regional staffing reviews. The long standing view of the NEC is that staffing matters should not be discussed at National Delegate Conference, although this view is not supported by our Rule Book. In the event a majority of the Committee supported the recommendations of the working party as drafted by officers. Glenn Kelly also proposed some amendments which were rejected, although his suggestion that one of the Rule Amendments was inadequate was “taken away” for further consideration prior to the forthcoming NEC meeting.
The recommendations of the report will be put to Conference and branches will be able to move amendments to the recommendations. Branches may wish to timetable discussion on this report between the publication of the Preliminary Agenda for National Delegate Conference and the deadline for amendments.
Since circulating this report to London Region branches it has been pointed out to me by my friend and comrade Jean Geldart, who was a member of the working party, that the lay working party did make a number of amendments to the original officer recommendations. Overall the report is a step forward, but that’s not to say that branches shouldn’t consider whether they can improve upon its recommendations!